Jerusalem: Twenty-four soldiers were killed on Monday, with the army saying 21 of them were reservists slain when rocket-propelled grenade fire hit a tank and two buildings they were trying to blow up.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said an investigation was launched into the “disaster” and that Israel “must learn the necessary lessons”. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the “deaths of 24 of our fighters, our best sons… is a heavy blow”.
More than 200 people attended the funeral of one of the reservists, Hadar Kapeluk, whose coffin was draped with an Israeli flag, at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem.
An analyst said the mounting toll of soldiers killed — now 221 — since Israel launched its ground offensive in Gaza would heap pressure on the government.
“Everybody is mourning the soldiers this morning and I think people will demand clear answers about the purpose and the goal of this operation in Gaza,” said Israela Oron of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
On the ground, fighting raged in Khan Yunis, the biggest city in southern Gaza, which the army said it had “encircled”.
Witnesses said powerful explosions rocked Khan Yunis, as well as Deir al-Balah in north Gaza and Rafah in the south.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its staff at Khan Yunis’s Nasser Hospital felt the “ground shaking”.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli forces had hit its headquarters in Khan Yunis “resulting in injuries among internally displaced individuals who sought safety on our premises”.
‘Looming threat of famine’
UN agencies and aid groups have sounded the alarm about the growing threat of disease and famine in Gaza, where 1.7 million people are estimated to have been uprooted.
“The situation in Gaza is of course slipping every day into a much more catastrophic situation,” with “a looming threat of famine”, said Abeer Etefa, the World Food Programme’s senior spokeswoman for the Middle East.
Abu Iyad, his belongings piled on a donkey-drawn cart, said he was moving for the seventh time, fleeing Khan Yunis for Rafah on the Egyptian border, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought shelter, many in makeshift tents.
“I’m heading to the unknown,” he told AFP. “They told us to go to Rafah — where to go in Rafah? Is there any space left?”
The Gaza war broke out with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attacks, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
In response, Israel has carried out a relentless offensive that has killed at least 25,490 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
The Hamas attack also saw about 250 hostages seized, and Israel says around 132 remain in Gaza. That number includes the bodies of at least 28 dead hostages, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
A week-long truce in November saw 105 hostages released, the Israelis among them in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Relatives of those still held captive stormed a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday demanding urgent action.
“You sit here while our children are dying over there,” yelled Gilad Korngold, father of hostage Tal Shoham, an AFP correspondent reported.
Agencies

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